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Reflections for land trusts, February 2022

Happy Groundhog Day.

Whether we will face an early spring or an extended winter, frankly, in defense of groundhogs everywhere, the weather is increasingly hard to predict :-).

We know that climate change is making extreme weather more frequent, while at the same time making “regular” weather more erratic. The impacts on plants, animals, and communities are now widespread, contributing to farming and ranching stress as well as the sixth extinction that is human-driven (here’s a short article about it, and a book you might like).

That’s why one of the goals of the monthly Land Trusts Taking Action (to slow down climate change) issue is to elevate the good work land trusts are doing — and inspire others to follow. It’s not always easy to find these examples, but they’re out there, as you will see below.

Land trusts are recognizing that ramping up the pace of conservation in a changing world is central to the long-term survival of those lands, and the communities that rely on them. So too, folks like you and I are realizing that we need to model the behavior we wish to see — and keep learning, adapting, and sharing new information as it relates to climate action.

If you want, email me your thoughts about the types of efforts you’d like to see land trusts doing more of — and I’ll specifically look for those examples. Thanks for caring.



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Bird And Berries
Stan Lilley

Reflections from Judy, January 2022

I hope this email finds you healthy and rested after the New Year.

I decided to refrain from sending out this climate eNews in December because I was sensing that so many of us were just plain exhausted. With the virus stress growing, and the climate news making it clear that we need to get off fossil fuels more than ever, I just hit “pause.”

It’s times like these that your voice is more important than ever. All over the country, people are seeing the impacts of climate change. Extreme weather continues to pummel communities, and the things people cherish are increasingly at risk.

So what can we do? Talk about the problems, the solutions, and the opportunities for change.

Natural lands, farms, ranches, and communities are increasingly stressed by extreme weather and the related consequences. Yet they are also part of the solution.

We need to ensure people understand that natural climate solutions are dependent to a large degree on keeping climate polluting gases under control — or nature can’t function effectively, and the Sixth Mass Extinction will run out of control. That’s why explaining that nature needs renewables — and that there are thoughtful, compatible ways to install renewables, is more important than ever.

Check out the examples below — and share the ideas. Working together to help people see the interrelated solutions is what 2022 is all about.



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Heron With Wild Colors
Karen Pickering

Reflections from Judy, November 2021

I’m hoping you will be able to take time this week to reflect on what you care about — and how climate change may be impacting it.

I say that not to discourage you, but rather to consider how we can help others see the importance of acting now in an integrated manner.

If you are wondering how you might connect with others around climate change, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe’s recent talk (below) could be a source of inspiration for you. It’s a fun conversation — and easy to watch.

Likewise, the video from Good Morning America at the end of this eNews is hopeful. The short video features farmers (west coast and east coast) who are farming with an eye towards regenerative agriculture and natural climate solutions (like increasing soil health) to enhance their profitability and resilience. They also recognize these farming practices will help slow down climate change.

That’s one of the reasons why dual-use solar is increasingly recognized as a way to accelerate climate “mitigation” (slowing down) while enhancing farm and ranch viability, soil health, and water management.

For many people in the conservation field, as well as community members, this perspective and the supporting data require a paradigm shift.

That’s why I thought you might appreciate the upcoming Solar and Wildlife/Natural Resources Symposium from December 1st – 3rd. It’s remote; they will share recordings after the sessions if you are busy during that time.

There’s a very interesting mix of speakers and topics. American Farmland Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Audubon Society, and American Solar Grazing Association are presenting, to name a few.

I have signed up and plan on watching the recordings. Would you like to join me?

Thank you for caring. Let me know what article or video resonates most with you. I’m thankful we are working towards change, together.


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Gop Vert Farm
REUTERS/Yves Herman

Reflections for land trusts, November 2021

Have you been following some of the recent research around climate change?

With the international climate talks getting considerable press, there’s been more interest in sharing climate-related impacts, as well as solutions.

For example, you might find the research documenting that World Heritage forests are releasing more carbon than they absorb, of interest.

Or, perhaps you can relate to how therapists in Maine are treating more people for climate anxiety.

Given the surge of climate awareness, it’s really good news that land trusts are increasingly talking about how climate change will impact the lands, waters, and communities people cherish — and how policies, and personal action, are needed to slow down climate change as soon as possible.

Below, you’ll find a variety of examples of land trusts taking action to talk about climate change and inspire others to slow it down.

One such example is the Mississippi Valley Conservancy. You can download their Climate Action Plan (below). As part of their regular outreach efforts, they mailed it to their members, volunteers, and partners with a cover note. The result? Very positive feedback — including some donations from folks who hadn’t contributed before.

This is a good example of how land trusts can amply the change that needs to happen. As science-based organizations, they have a unique role to play in helping their communities and policy-makers realize the urgency of transitioning off fossil fuels. They are also well-positioned to encourage incentives that help people weatherize their homes, as well as finding ways to assist landowners and communities to be part of the natural climate solutions effort.

I’ll be interested to see what you think of the examples below.



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Reflections from Judy, October 2021

With climate talks gearing up on the local, national, and international levels, there have been a lot of articles recently about climate solutions.

It’s important timing. I’ve created this eNews so you can skim, and share, articles that are relevant to you and those you know.

NOAA has documented that atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration will soar past a concerning threshold this year, exceeding 417 parts per million (ppm) —  a 50% increase since the start of widespread industrial activity in the 18th century.

They state “The atmospheric burden of CO2 is now comparable to where it was during the Pliocene Climatic Optimum, between 4.1 and 4.5 million years ago, when CO2 was close to, or above 400 ppm. During that time, sea level was about 78 feet higher than today, the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in pre-industrial times, and studies indicate large forests occupied areas of the Arctic that are now tundra.”

The next few years are going to be critical to our long-term success. Many of these solutions necessitate a change in thinking — like how much natural climate solutions can help as they become increasingly stressed by climate change, the critical importance of dual-use solar and wind, and how energy conservation efforts can become more central to our land and water conservation work.

Then, of course, there’s the steady drumbeat about the importance of talking about climate change — and climate solutions — in a way that resonates with people.

It will require a paradigm shift to help your community understand that farms, ranches, nature, and the places they love need renewables to survive and thrive. Natural climate solutions are an important part of the puzzle — including soils — but unless we transition off fossil fuels in the near term, and conserve more energy, those natural climate solutions are increasingly at risk.

We are going to need you, and the communities you are affiliated with, to share examples of compatible, dual-use, renewable energy and encourage adoption for the sake of the farms, ranchlands, and wildlife you love. 

Thanks for caring, and for helping people to see that the solutions are already here. We just need to implement them at scale.


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Fall Foliage In The Neighborhood
Jane Eno

Reflections from Judy, fall 2021

As hunting season approaches here in the Northeast, I’m thinking about those women and men who care deeply about the outdoors and the health of nature.

When we think about who is taking action to slow down climate change, we often don’t consider those who hunt and fish.

That’s why I want to make sure you know about Conservation Hawks. As a national group, they are working to inspire climate action while there’s still time to save the plants and animals they love.

The Conservation Hawks website, including their videos, is a good place to start if you’d like to share stories with those who hunt and fish. They note: “We are a group of passionate hunters and anglers devoted to protecting our sporting heritage and passing on a healthy natural world to our kids and grandkids. Our motto says it all: Hunters & Anglers Defending Our Future.

“What makes us different? At Conservation Hawks, our job is to identify and address the single biggest threat to our hunting and fishing. That’s why we focus all our time and energy on the most important issue for sportsmen: Climate Change.”

If you have stories about hunters and anglers taking action to slow down climate change, please share them with me. I’d love to feature them. In the meantime, keep talking about the need to slow down climate change in a manner that connects to what people care about. We’ve got to provide realistic, timely climate solutions to avoid paralyzing climate despair.



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Two Little Kits Watching
Anne Lowe

Reflections for land trusts, September 2021

What’s keeping you going these days? A walk in the woods? Taking a moment to connect with a friend?

I know it’s been challenging with all the extreme weather, and Covid, which is why land conservation and our collective effort to slow down climate change and bring joy and hope to our communities, is so important.

Research confirms what we already know: when we talk about climate change, we have to provide solutions — including nature-based solutions and transitioning off fossil fuels.

For us to be successful, given the urgency of reducing climate change, we will need to convey the importance of a dual-track approach.

The good news is that land trusts across the country are talking about climate change — and supporting soil and forest health with an eye towards climate change — by engaging policy-makers in thinking about the need to act now.

I’ve been reaching out to my Congressman to see if there is a way to tap federal and/or state funding for land trusts to install electric vehicle chargers at their conservation areas and local parks. That’s something you might want to consider, too. To me, it’s an example of a logical step forward. It’s a perfect way to connect the values of nature appreciation with transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Mendocino Land Trust worked on this very issue several years ago.

Do you know of other land trusts working on a dual-track approach of natural climate solutions and encouraging energy conservation, renewables, and transitioning off fossil fuels? If so, please email me so we can inspire others to follow suit.


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Karen Pickering

Reflections from Judy, September 2021

I hope this email finds you OK. My heart goes out to those experiencing the severe droughts, fires, floods, tornados, and storms. On a personal note, I’m finding that the abrupt weather changes are triggering migraines — and I sure didn’t budget for emergency tree removal after one of the last fast-paced storms.

You probably heard about it, but the recent IPCC climate report made it clear, once again, that we must get off fossil fuels as soon as possible; natural climate solutions (like soils, trees, oceans, and prairies) while important, are going to become increasingly stressed. In the best-case scenario, they can slow down climate change by approximately 30%. Yet even that is starting to be a challenge.

Now, more than ever, responding to the climate crisis necessitates thinking about land conservation and community engagement differently. We need to be honest and authentic with our communities and supporters about what’s at stake and how natural climate solutions could lose much of their power to make meaningful change.

We need to help people understand that nature and farms need renewables. Case in point: there are a number of communities fighting solar and wind. Sometimes this is with good reason; they can be poorly designed. Yet that doesn’t have to be the case. We need to help these communities understand that the places they love are increasingly at risk, and renewables, when properly designed and implemented, are an important step to saving the places we hold dear.

I’m personally not an advocate for removing woodlands for solar unless they are mono-cultures. I’d rather have dual-use, agrovoltaics that help with pollinators and farm viability. But, that won’t happen unless we help make it happen. And some land trusts are.

There’s a paradigm shift happening about what it means to conserve land and water for generations.

Land trusts are starting to help make that shift happen.


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Creative Commons

Reflections for land trusts, July 2021

I hope you are doing okay. I’ve written this message to you three different times. Each time seemed too sad, too dreary, too much. I find that I’m walking around the house and I just lose my way; I’m lost in thought about what is at stake for me, for you, and for our collective future.

Extreme weather wackiness is increasing given the continued use of fossil fuels and higher levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. As of May 2021, our global CO2 levels exceeded 419. That’s way past what is considered a safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (350 ppm), which is why natural climate solutions are so important to pull CO2 from the air. 

New York City had the worst air quality in the world this past Wednesday… due to the western fires. Just think about that. Smoke from 3,000 miles away. For those of us who don’t live where the fires are it’s hard to fathom. For those who do, we are thinking of you.

The same goes with the flooding. The floods seem to be accelerating in the southern and eastern parts of this country.

The driver is, as you know, burning fossil fuels. Without transitioning off fossil fuels soon, natural climate solutions like farms and ranchlands, woodlands, wetlands, and prairies, won’t stand much of a chance.

The good news is that land trusts are recognizing that they can’t think in climate silos.  

As land conservationists, we have had to adapt, change, partner, and develop new perspectives on what it means to conserve land and serve our communities, for generations to come. We now have to combine compassion with grit and new ways of thinking.

A number of land trusts are realizing that renewable energy must be part of their own climate solution to save the lands and waters they have pledged to conserve. The same goes for energy conservation.

I know we can do it because we must do it. It’s a moral imperative. There are land trusts who care deeply about slowing down climate change and are strategic thinkers; they recognize we depend on them to lead in an integrated manner. And many are. That’s part of why I’m hopeful.


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Solar Panel Installer
Windwärts Energie / CC

Reflections from Judy, July 2021

I’m wondering if you could share with me what types of articles would be helpful for you in our joint effort to understand the impacts of climate change and work to slow it down.

For example, part of the challenge is connecting conservation-oriented people, like you and me, to the need to take rapid action to get off fossil fuels. I still hear people say, “We should keep solar off farms until all the buildings, dumps, and parking lots are covered with solar.”

Yet, that perspective doesn’t factor in a number of issues, including:

  1. Farms and ranches often need the added income that solar provides — we have lost millions of acres due to lack of economic viability. Extreme weather from climate change is only making it harder.
  2. Many rooftops aren’t strong enough, nor suitable for, solar installation. We are going to need ground-mounted solar and roof-top solar.
  3. Solar, if installed thoughtfully, can actually help soil regeneration and water absorption — more than growing corn for ethanol or other crops that demand intensive fertilizers.
  4. We have the technology to ensure that solar is compatible with farm viability — we just have to prioritize it with the related policies, along with parking areas and rooftops. Sheep grazing is an example of this, but so is growing crops and grazing cows and large animals around solar.
  5. Nature-based, and farm-based, climate solutions are reliant on getting off fossil fuels, soon.

Research shows that people may not embrace, or act, slow down climate change because they don’t like the solutions. And very well could include conservation-oriented people, too. I’m confident that we can recognize this challenge and overcome it. 

What information would be helpful to you, and those you know, to encourage an integrated approach to slow down climate change and face the urgency of the situation? I look forward to your thoughts; please email me.


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